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The ten green chemicals driving a disruptive new industry in Britain

The UK government should focus on ten specific bio-based chemicals in order to boost industrial growth, jobs, trade and investment in the UK, says a new report.

Bio-based chemicals represent a dynamic area of innovation in the UK, which could become a world leader in this emerging industry. The UK has an important research lead in these ten chemicals and the infrastructure and global supply chains to exploit them.

The report was developed by LBNet, sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), in consultation with leading biotechnology and chemistry experts from business, academia and the public sector. It includes recommendations to government to ensure the industry delivers its potential.

The ten bio-based chemicals were agreed based on commercial viability, UK strengths to exploit, functionality and sustainability. They are:

  1. Lactic acid: Used to make PLA, which can be used for biodegradable plastics
  2. 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA): A stronger alternative to PET, which is used to make plastic bottles, food packaging and carpets
  3. Levoglucosenone: A safer alternative to toxic solvents used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, flavours and fragrances
  4. 5 Hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF): A building block for plastics and polyesters
  5. Muconic acid: It’s derivatives could replace non-sustainable chemicals used in the production of plastics and nylon fibres
  6. Itaconic acid: A replacement for petroleum-based acrylic acid, used to make absorbent materials for nappies and resins used in high-performance marine and automotive components
  7. 1,3-Butanediol: A building block for high value products including pheromones, fragrances, insecticides, antibiotics and synthetic rubber
  8. Glucaric acid: Prevents deposits of limescale and dirt on fabric or dishes, providing a green replacement for phosphate-based detergents
  9. Levulinic acid: Used in the production of environmentally friendly herbicides, flavour and fragrance ingredients, skin creams and degreasers
  10. n-Butanol: Used in a wide range of polymers and plastics, as a solvent in a wide variety of chemical and textile processes and as a paint thinner

Download the report